Nerve full movie review - 'Nerve' is an entertaining thriller with an interesting premise that is marred only by several plot-holes, some larger plot issues and the fact that it is pretty generic.
'Nerve' is a thriller directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, one which focuses upon a fictional yet plausible social media 'game' that involves an audience providing people with escalating dares in exchange for cash prizes.
It is an interesting premise that feels suitably modern, as well as being incredibly timely as internet 'challenges' and games such as 'Pokémon GO' have increased in popularity - bringing many tales of injury, criminality and other misfortunes with them. The conceivable premise is easy to get invested in, as the film often evokes contemplation about ourselves and our society in general; it isn't all that deep though, with the greater ideas never fully explored. On top of that, the narrative itself is actually paper thin with a number of prevalent plot holes. The significance of some elements is never explained or fully examined, leading to a series of plot-points that actually seem rather inconsequential.
The movie starts off on a weak note, coming across as generic and generally false. The opening uses a number of gimmicks that feel invasive and unnecessary, which end up feeling stylised simply for the sake of creating the pretense of individuality. However, these aspects are reeled back to the point where they help tell the story and aren't obtrusive, and once it settles into the second act the flick really comes into its own. This act is the best one, featuring a sense of adventure as well as a few moments of genuine tension. These moments are when the film is at its best, examining the dangerous and ill- advised nature of the dares themselves, but unfortunately don't come often enough. For the most part, the 'Nerve' game is somewhat glamourised and a lot of the risk is glossed over. An extended sequence featuring a motorcycle isn't as tense as it should be, partly due to the lack of tangible danger or consequences and partly due to the sense of invigoration - rather than fear - felt by the main characters. There are a few moments towards the end of the picture that actually chastise the anonymous nature of the internet, particularly when it is used to bully or harm, which don't come across as too overbearing and by that point in the narrative feel earned. The final act is pretty fragile in comparison the the one before it, easily breaking under scrutiny and coming across as quite contrived. The movie as a whole was devoid of surprises, meandered a little in places and had several fundamental issues which damage its credibility. The central mystery is set up as if it is going to have a big pay-off, but it actually falls rather flat and doesn't warrant the suspense given to it. It could've been dropped entirely, along with some other side-plots that didn't add anything. The plot-holes and missteps, as well as the failures of the base premise itself, aren't all that noticeable in the moment though; it is only upon reflection that they become obvious. Despite all of the problems, I did enjoy watching the picture and found honest entertainment in some of the set-pieces.
The characters themselves are decently realised, coming across as somewhat rounded and given just the right amount of characterisation. There is little development but all of it enhances the connection between the audience and the on-screen actors. The two leads are given the most time and are therefore the most complex and relatable; Emma Roberts and Dave Franco do a great job leading the picture. They have a good chemistry, even though Franco is in his thirties and Roberts is supposedly in high-school. Their interactions feel genuine at times, and they don't simply slot into a preset archetype - at least not always. There is some artifice used to make the characters seem real though, as well as some revelations that don't come across as well as they should. The other roles are all fairly minor, though the protagonist's best friend is more complex than she is initially presented. The cast do a good job of making each on-screen presence feel relevant and honest, they easily demonstrate the qualities of an admittedly stereotyped demographic. The writing is good here, a screenplay - based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan - by Jessica Sharzer manages to capture the modern premise and plot elements whilst still retaining a focus on character. There are no overtly cheesy lines and no obvious oddities or clearly 'written' snippets of dialogue, though initially there is a lot of exposition and most of what's said isn't particularly new; nothing really stands out, for better or worse.
In terms of the technical stuff, the majority of it is to a high standard. The cinematography is clean, if a little bland, and the editing is satisfyingly unnoticeable - as it should be. The direction itself is evidently favourable, with little 'shaky-cam' and clean framing. Nothing is especially different or quirky, but the shots are easy-to-read and the flick as a whole does a good job of bringing you into the story. I found the set-pieces to be well filmed and tightly edited, making use of practical stunt-work and wide angles to make them believable. The film in general has a tight pace, meaning that there is no time for boredom and no fat that could be trimmed. It tells its story in as little time as it needs, but this does mean that the ending appears quite abrupt.
Overall, 'Nerve' is a tightly paced thriller that's competently made and well acted; it is enjoyable to watch and has a few moments of genuine tension, even if there are several plot-holes and nonsensical aspects. I had disposable fun with this despite its issues, though it is a little unmemorable and generic: 7/10